A recent study published in the Journal of Neuropsychology— the first to compare the effects of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)—has important implications for parents and educators. Researchers found that, although the two neuro-developmental disorders are very different and require different treatments, some of their symptoms can appear the same. Both conditions can result in inattention and restlessness; a child rearranging the objects on his or her desk, for example, could be acting out compulsive behaviors rather than merely fidgeting with excess energy. Teachers who are more familiar with the symptoms of ADHD might reach the wrong conclusions about a student with OCD, leading to a misdiagnosis that negatively affects the child. Ritalin, a drug commonly prescribed for the treatment of ADHD, actually exacerbates the symptoms of OCD.
The study recommends that parents and teachers pay close attention to students displaying behavioral problems and consider all possibilities in order to avoid misdiagnosis. You can read more about the study at ScienceDaily or Psych Central. The ADDitude article “Is It OCD or ADD/ADHD?” provides a helpful overview for understanding the distinctions between the conditions.